A few years back, I wrote about 12 Mom Reasons Why Knoebels is the Best Amusement Park. An interesting point made by some readers: the idyllic scene I’d painted of a family enjoying the day together (without hand-stamps), content to spent a relaxed day at an amusement park, made sense with the ages of kids I had: all under 10 and basically at the same stage of desires about amusement parks. (Though my oldest had outgrown kiddie rides and so things had already started changing for us). This left me wondering: Would the things I preferred about Knoebels still be true when my kids were older? The seed was planted.
Well, it’s three years now since I wrote that post. And last summer, we didn’t even go to Knoebels at all, since we had season passes to Hershey, as part of a Christmas gift.
But this past week, we finally got to Knoebels again, but this time with 2 preteens literally too large in stature to even be allowed on kiddie rides, and a girl whose height of 48 inches meant she could just barely get her last ride on many kiddie amusements as well as begin riding many of the larger rides.
So the question loomed as I started the drive with my 3 kids: Would we enjoy Knoebles now as much as we did in the past? And was it possible to still do it on low budget, not purchasing hand stamps?
Many things have changed about Knoebels since I wrote my original post. Now the price of a book of tickets worth $20 is $18.20. But if you buy vouchers ahead of time at Weis’ grocery store, you can get the $20 book of stamps for $16. I did that latter option and saved $12 on the three books of stamps I bought. S0, I planned to attempt spending only $48 on rides with tickets worth $60.
Other things went up in price, most notably our favorite ice cream stand. Long gone was the $5.75 banana boat that three of us shared… Now a banana split starts at $7, and the price goes up for customization.
But back to the kids….
I’m all about setting expectations. It’s my philosophy for a successful classroom experience when I teach classes of others peoples’ kids, and it’s my philosophy for family outings and vacations, because nothing ruins an experience more efficiently than unmet expectations.
My kids had experienced Knoebels with unlimited rides via hand stamps purchased by Mamie and Pop Pop in the past, so now they knew the other side… They knew such a thing was possible. And they knew we were not going to have that kind of experience this trip.
I explained to them how many tickets each would get to spend however he/she wanted. We talked about seeing how much their favorite rides were and budgeting accordingly. I explained how we were going to go at a leisurely pace and enjoy things–not mad rush to get on as many rides as possible and do each coaster 3 times in a row!
I remember years ago when my oldest really enjoyed just such a trip; he truly loved taking turns and just watching his sister enjoy a kiddie ride until we could walk to other parts of the park for his preferences. This is the picture, below.
I treasure this one. Because I know what he’s looking at: his three-year-old sister riding the firetruck carousel. He loved her and could take joy in her joy.
THIS. This is the image I think of when I think of going to Knoebels and why I love it. And others warned me, this was not likely to continue. Kids get older. They become preteens and teens.
And believe me, I’ve since then seen less than cooperative attitudes from my boys at amusement parks. I could tell you some stories about going to Hershey with them last year.
So yes, I actually WONDERED if we could enjoy a low-budget trip to Knoebels. Could we enjoy a day and spend less than $100?
Here’s what was the same/successful:
- We STILL enjoyed some free entertainments. My 6-year-old begged to see the story time and planned to act in it. Though she changed her mind about acting, we still watched the show. She says she’ll act in it next time!We tried a show with an illusionist for middle kid who loves magic shows. I WISH I’d have snapped a picture of his jaw hanging to the floor after the magician “found” a kid’s $20 bill inserted into the fleshy sections of an uncut lemon.
I have to say, go see the Magic Walkers (http://www.magicwalkers.com/) in the Roaring Springs Saloon. I’ve not seen any illusionist that original or captivating, and that’s compared to ones we’ve seen on tv and a show we attended last year of some magicians touring just after their highly-touted Las Vegas tenure. My son was not impressed at the former, but this little non-flashy Knoebels illusionist wowed him more than anything he’s seen.
- We spent only $40 on food all day–which is a minor miracle for amusement parks for 4 people. (Though we could have gone even cheaper, if I’d needed to.) We brought a packed lunch (totally permissible and supported by places to eat that lunch). I bought everyone their coveted perogies for a meal side dish and split some meals at the Mexican counter in the International food court. I bought everyone one snack/treat. Naomi wanted ice cream “as big as her head,” as Eli got at the Olde Mill Ice Cream shop two years ago.I told the kids beforehand that if they wanted more snacks, I’d bring some, but they could also use their allowance money to buy their own. A couple choose to do the latter. (We’re trying to give the kids opportunities to spend or save money so they can practice weighing decisions.)
- Most importantly, could we spend only the $60 value in tickets for rides and would the kids still think it was fun with that limit?It did start with a little impatience because we had to wait and walk quite a bit to hit different kids’ favorites. They weren’t going to waste their tickets on rides a sibling chose unless it was really something they wanted to do/spend their tickets on, so they really were just waiting sometimes during rides.
I didn’t let the older ones run of to do their own thing: 1) that means you burn through tickets/money twice as fast. and 2) that’s not a family outing. there’ a time and place for letting them do their own thing, but that time was not this trip.
But as we worked through the day, peppered with food breaks, time at the playground, climbing on the old steam engine, and two entertainments, this became a non-issue. I put a hard deadline on leaving by 8 PM at the latest, and suddenly, we wondered if we could even burn through our tickets before time ran out! (We had arrived at noon, an hour later than the park opens, and we stayed until 8.)
Our day ended with the kids helping each other! The youngest was out of tickets but her oldest brother really, really wanted to take her on a roller coaster.
So he’d saved enough of his tickets to cover them both. He also saved enough to take her on a second roller coaster, but she didn’t want to do that. The other boy gave a sibling tickets to make up for lack of having the full fare. And one boy bought the other an ice cream cone. And all of this was not coaxed or coached!
As we drove home, I thanked them for being amazing and enjoyable to spend the day with. They had been so cooperative, pleasant, etc.
I wish I had a picture too of them riding the tilt-whirl, one of the few rides they all took together. But the ride moves so fast, their little carriage spinning them out of view as soon as I get ready to snap…. But I loved the look of their laughing faces as the momentum and centrifugal force of the ride slammed them one way and another into each other. I stood in the gloaming of that pine tree-laced, pebble walkway park and brimmed over with joy. Kids who love each other? Priceless. Oh, they certainly pick on each other and have their days of being awful to each other. But you put them in situations like this, their affection comes out and they work together for mutual fun, on the Tilt-o-Whirl and the Flume ride, splashing down a waterfall with their mouths as wide open as their eyes are shut.
So here’s to one more year of Knoebels Amusement Park magic.
And yes we did it on less than $100. We spent $84 of parent money to be exact (plus gas money).
Here are some pictures of girlie’s last-ever turns on these kiddie rides. She can’t fit her knees in!